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Black coaches: qualified and overlooked. (Publisher's Page).

When 2001-2002 National Football League season began there were only three black head coaches among the league's 31 teams. The resignation of Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green and the firing of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy, makes Herman Edwards, who piloted the New York Jets into the playoffs in his first year as head coach, the only remaining top black NFL coach. That figure could double to a grand total of two should Dungy be hired by one of the other NFL teams said to be considering him for a head coach position. In 2002, with African Americans comprising almost 70% of athletes playing pro football, this is absolutely appalling.

There are two primary pipelines to tap for head-coaching talent for the NFL. The first is the pool of offensive and defensive coordinators and assistant coaches of professional football teams. The good news is, there is a growing number of African Americans who hold such positions in the NFL. Several of them, such as Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and Vikings offensive Coordinator Sherman Lewis, have excelled in the profession for nearly two decades. The bad news is that rarely, if ever, are they on the short list of candidates.

The second source of NFL head-coaching talent are the top coaches of college football programs. The problem is that college athletic programs are even less inclusive in their hiring practices than the pros. According to the Black Coaches Association (BCA), ethnic minorities represent only 2.7% (15 of 547) of head coaches at all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) institutions (not including those coaching at historically black colleges and universities), while ethnic minorities make up more than 50% of the student-athletes playing college football. At the beginning of the most recent college season, ethnic minorities held just 4.3% (5 of 115) of the head-coaching jobs in Division I-A football programs. The lack of opportunities for black coaches goes beyond football. For example, when Notre Dame University hired Tyrone Willingham as the head coach of its legendary, but struggling, football program in January, it was the first time the university hired an African American coach in any sport.

NFL team owners and NCAA athletic departments can no longer repeat the tired excuse of a dearth of qualified candidates. For example, in the sport of football, the BCA, the NCAA, and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association compiled a list of more than 50 candidates who are well qualified as head-coaching candidates. (To see a partial listing of these coaches, go to

Excelling in football, as in any sport, particularly at the professional level, is about more than having a physical gift--it requires leadership, intelligence, decisiveness, creativity, a powerful work ethic, and a commitment to excellence in both planning and performance. African Americans have demonstrated all of these characteristics, and then some, on the field. It is well past time for professional football, and major sports organizations in general, to open up opportunities for African Americans to do the same on the sidelines.
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Author:Graves, Earl G., Sr.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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